Frequently Asked Questions

anatomy learning center

Why should I consider donating my body to science?

This unique and priceless gift of the human body provides the opportunity for knowledge that is the foundation of all medical education and research. Bodies that are donated to medical schools are used to teach medical and other health profession students the relationship between the systems and structure of the human body. In other instances donated bodies have been used by research physicians in the development of new surgical procedures. In both instances, the need for donations is great, and the gift is valued and honored beyond measure.

How can I leave my body to medical science?

Upon request, forms authorizing the donation of the body to science will be mailed to you with a return envelope. Forms may also be downloaded from this website. The completion of these forms does not require the services of a lawyer or a notary. After the returned documents have been reviewed by the Program you will be sent a letter and a donor identification card.

Download the donation form. 

Does age, disease, weight, or amputation make the donation unacceptable?

There is no upper age limit for whole body donation, nor does amputation preclude acceptance. Medical conditions that would prevent acceptance as a donor include: Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease, hepatitis, HIV, and tuberculosis. Extensive trauma at the time of death or advanced decomposition would also make the remains unsuitable for anatomical study. Due to the nature of our preparation process, we are unable to accept donors weighting over 250 lbs.  

What about autopsies?

Information learned from autopsies is sometimes of importance to the donor’s physician or family, and in some instances autopsy is required by law. However, the value for anatomical study of an autopsied body is limited, and we generally do not accept autopsied donors into the Program.

May I still be an organ and tissue donor?

Generally, yes. We address instances of organ and tissue donation on a case-by-case basis, but organ and tissue donation usually does not prevent us from accepting a donor into our program.  

Who may serve as a witness to my donation?

Two witness signatures are required for donation. Anyone 21 years or older, preferably someone expected to be a survivor, may act as one witness. The other witness must be a “disinterested witness” or someone other than a family member or a person with legal ties to the donor.  

What expenses are involved upon the death of the donor?

The Program will arrange for and pay for the cost of transporting the body if a death occurs within Northern California.  If a mortuary is involved, mortuary fees will be the responsibility of the donor family. If a death occurs outside of Northern California, the Program may arrange for the body to be accepted by another University of California Donated Body Program closer to the place of death, or may decline to accept the donation of the body.  

Should the donor inform someone of the bequest?

Yes. Discuss your plans with those close to you so that your wishes are clearly understood. It is also advisable for a donor to notify his or her physician and attorney of the arrangements.

What is the final disposition following study?

After studies are completed the remains are cremated and scattered at sea. Cremated remains are not returned for private disposition, and no notification of final disposition will be sent to the family. Donors should discuss this with their families to ensure everyone involved in comfortable. No exceptions to this policy will be granted.

May I donate someone else’s body, such as my spouse?

Registration of another person cannot be done while that person is living. However, after the individual’s death, the spouse or nearest living next of kin may donate the body.  

What if the death occurs in another state?

A medical school in the State where the death occurred may be contacted for donation.  

Will any payment be received for the body?

No payment may be made in connection with a body donation. This policy is in accordance with State laws, and all institutions accepting human remains must comply with it.   

If a bequest is made, and the donor has a change of mind later, can the gift be rescinded?

Yes, if the request to rescind is made in writing by the donor.

Will my family receive a report of medical findings or study details?

No, we do not provide reports to donor family. Certified copies of death certificates can be obtained through the Department of Birth & Death Registry in the county in which the death occurred.

What is the procedure upon the death of the donor?

The next of kin, spouse, executor, or hospital personnel should call the Willed Body Program office at (415) 476-1981 and choose option 1.  Phone is immediately answered, 24 hours a day.

Download the donation form.